As everyone knows by now, after 74 victories and over $2.5 million in prize money, the record-setting winning streak of Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings recently came to an end. In an episode televised on Tuesday night, Jennings, a computer software engineer from Utah, was defeated by Nancy Zerg, a real estate agent and former actress from California.
Right now you're probably thinking: "Hey, federal judges are pretty smart cookies. Have any of them ever competed on 'Jeopardy!'?" The answer: of course! As is so often the case, the rumors are true: Judge Mark V. Holmes of the U.S. Tax Court (see right) was a "Jeopardy!" contestant. And just as Judge Holmes's former boss, Judge Kozinski, triumphed on the Dating Game, Judge Holmes also acquitted himself well on national television, winning a tidy sum. "Yo Holmes, to Bel Air!"
Now, the clairvoyant Article III Groupie knows what you're thinking. She realizes that Judge Holmes, as a Tax Court judge, is a mere Article I judge. Article I judges are rarely discussed in the pages of "Underneath Their Robes," whose rarefied precincts are generally the exclusive playground of life-tenured, Article III aristocrats. In this case, however, A3G will make an exception, for two reasons: (1) Judge Holmes is very cool, for the reasons identified by "Article I Sycophant" back in this post (see item 3(b)), including his delightful opinion in Calarco v. Commissioner (click here for the opinion (pdf), or here for prior UTR discussion (see item 1)); and (2) the subject of "Jeopardy!" is highly topical, with news of the Ken Jennings defeat splashed all over the newspapers and internet.
In addition, it may only be a matter of time before Judge Holmes joins the ranks of Article III demigods. The well-credentialed Judge Holmes -- a former Kozinski clerk and former Deputy AAG for the DOJ Tax Division -- was recently spotted networking up a storm, over at that legal conservative job fair also known as the Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention. Gazing into her crystal ball, the fortune-telling "Article III Gypsy" sees a lifetime appointment in his future! If Judge Holmes does end up making this move, he would not be the first judge to go from the Tax Court to an Article III court. For example, Judge Cynthia Holcomb Hall served on the Tax Court before joining the Ninth Circuit. (A digression: as you may recall from this post, back in 1994, Judge Hall was romantically linked by several news outlets to Chief Justice Rehnquist.)
Now, back to our story. A3G has fallen behind once again in her blogging, e-mailing, and brief writing, so she will take the path of least resistance: she will yield the floor to her correspondents, so they can tell the tale in their own words.
Holmes did, indeed, play on Jeopardy while he was clerking for me -- and won about $22K, as I recall. Among his personal interests, he listed "sheep parts," which prompted a question from Alex Trebek about why this unusual interest. He answered -- with a straight face -- that he had trouble getting dates so his friends encouraged an interest in other species. Noting that Jeopardy is a family show, Trebek chose not to pursue it.
Anyway, that's what I recall from having seen the show many years ago. If you want a confirm, here's his e-mail . . . .
As a responsible blogress, A3G e-mailed Judge Holmes, to check the accuracy of the information she received from The Easy Rider. Judge Holmes responded with an e-mail in which he related the charming tale of his game show exploits, which A3G now excerpts below:
One of the advantages of a Kozinski clerkship is, of course, that he is "Judge to the Stars," and his chambers are only a short drive down the Pasadena Freeway to Hollywood. Pursuing a childhood dream of game show glory, I snuck out to audition for "Jeopardy!" I easily passed the written test but, as is all too commonly true for people destined for tax law, ignominiously failed the personality screening. In my case, I think it was because I honestly answered their question about hobbies by telling my little story about collecting "sheep paraphernalia" (not sheep "parts"). A look of horror quickly descended on the faces of the contestant coordinators, and I was never called back.
Fortunately for me, however, Judge K (who was so very much younger and -- if you can imagine it -- even hotter in those days) had invited me to a second year of clerking, so I was still out in California for the next season of "Jeopardy!" This time I prepared carefully -- taking personality lessons from another clerk (a hypernormal Kansan who is now a distinguished professor at Drake Law School), with the goal of perpetrating a small deceit on those honest Hollywood types. (Well, actually, I just asked him a bunch of "Jeopardy!" personality interview questions and memorized his answers.)
Again, the written test went fine, and apart from when one of the contestant screeners muttered "Didn't we see this guy last year?," I thought I had breezed through the personality interview with stories of my love for the KU Jayhawks and KC Royals. I got called for the show, only to hear Alex Trebek begin my little interview with "Some of our guests collect coins; some collect stamps; but is this right, Mark, that you collect -- sheep paraphernalia?"
I regret to say that, taken unawares by the skilled "Jeopardy!" researchers who clearly had kept me in their database, I actually told the truth -- that, having a hard time finding dates when I started out on Wall Street ("document reviewer" and "sycophantic junior associate" not being the hottest jobs then or now), my friends had in fact encouraged me to consider dating outside my species through their unsolicited gifts of oviphiliana.
It all worked out, though. The returning champion -- who had much better buzzer control than I could ever hope for -- was a psychiatrist who was so taken aback by the possible head case standing next to him that I was able to sweep to victory that day. (Only $17K though -- it was the next day that I lost with $22,000. Damn those popular culture questions!)
My then-new girlfriend (from San Francisco and human), who was in the audience that day, denied all connection with me for a short while, but eventually accepted my proposal and moved back to New York with me.
The whole sordid affair seemed to be safely in the past. Till now...
Baa-baa! What a delightful story! A3G thanks the charmingly self-deprecating Judge Holmes for sharing this amusing anecdote with her readers, despite its somewhat embarrassing aspects. She also invites her readers to e-mail her with any other stories of federal judges competing on game shows or reality shows.
Who is the blawger with the largest shoe collection?,